Saturday, October 22, 2011

review: Gokusen

Another great josei manga that isn't available in Germany.

Rating: 5/5 (for the manga)
manga: 15;
anime: 12;
j-drama: 13 (season 1), 11 (season 2), 11 (season 3), one TV special and one movie
Mature content: not really
Genre: Josei

Kumiko Yamaguchi is a high school teacher in her first year - and the heir of a Yakuza family (yakuza are somewhat the "Japanese mafia"). Afraid of losing her job should her relation's occupation become public, she tries to keep it a secret; which isn't easy considering how easily she falls into Yakuza slang, her notion of holding weird passionate speeches about fighting honour and her unusual skill in martial arts.
Luckily her class is pretty dumb. Except for one guy: Shin. He notices right away that there's something strange about her. And he falls in love.
Yankumi - the nickname her class gave to Yamaguchi - is oblivious to that. Even so she comes to rely greatly on the smart student, not only when helping out her delinquent students, but sometimes also in Yakuza matters (since both get mixed up a lot). Mainly she relies on his brains because even though Shin also tries to help her out in fights, he always ends up being beaten up and instead of saving her, he's the one who needs to be saved.

The Manga
Don't expect many bishonen guys in here, there's lots of quite ugly people.
You also need to take certain things not so serious (or overlook them): this is about yakuza, so there's a lot of illegal and violent things mentioned, hinted at or done.
Once you're though this, though, you're in for a very funny, entertaining story, with lots of action. There's Yankumi, a good teacher, a good fighter, but absolutely clueless sometimes. The tough Yakuza guys shed lots of manly tears and fuzz over their "ojou". Overall, even if they're criminals, it's hard not to grow to like them at least a little. Shin's clever and good-looking, but no match for the people Yankumi deals with and too naive or stubborn to realize that at first. As soon as his friends find out that he fell in love with Yankumi, they try "help" him, much to his embarrassement (but he goes along anyway).
The story in the manga starts when Yankumi starts at the school as a teacher and ends when her first class graduates and spans around two years. The bonus chapter about the Demon Temple is quite a nice one, as is the host/fireworks festival chapter. (And the confession at the end is really priceless.)

The Anime
The anime is very much like the manga. The drawing style is similar, of course, so lots of characters look kinda gross. Shin still is bishonen, and we get to see his red hair.
Unfortunately Fuji, Yankumis dog, gets a lot more screentime and I really don't know why. He is mentioned in the manga, too (especially in the bonus chapters), but when reading the manga I already thought it was kinda useless, and his extended screentime in the anime even more so.
Also the anime is extremely shortened and the story is slightly altered, much of the yakuza business is left out.

The J-Drama
Season one more or less follows the story of the manga, but changed quite some aspects. First of all it is very toned down: Shin is a bit older, he's not being taken into casinos and brothels, doesn't wear a fundoshi and gets no host training (bit of a shame, because that's some of his sexiest/funniest moments) and the fights are more tame of course. Most of the Yakuza business is left out here, too. Another big change is that Shinohara-san - who Yankumi has a crush on - is not the Yakuza lawyer of her family, but a police officer she meets by chance. The best difference in my opinion is the additional character of the school nurse; and that most students thankfully don't look as gross as they do in the manga.
The acting is totally over the top most of the time, but that's alright because it's comedy after all. Though sometimes it can be a real tearjerker, too. Season One also has the eye candy of Jun Matsumoto as Shin (without red hair though). I really like Yankumi's grandfather, the Yakuza boss, too; he's the one giving out all the wisdom in the TV series.
The series literally has a "running gag" since in nearly every episode Yankumi and her whole class are running around town looking for some student who got into trouble.
The later seasons get a bit boring, since the characters in the class always seem to be the same again, and the plot also kind of repeats itself.

It's really a shame that Gokusen was never released in German. I don't even know whether it was released in English.
One benefit of Gokusen: Shin's a hottie. He is so in every medium, it even gets commented upon in the story (even his best friend's mother remarks on how good-looking he is!). But there's more to it of course! The plot is entertaining and in a way it's trying to teach honour and morals. Of course the involvement of the yakuza is questionable - on the other hand: who else to teach kids about the traditional values but the daughter of a yakuza family?
If you want to get into it, I recommend the manga and/or the first season of the j-drama.

TV Tropes
J-Drama Wiki

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